Difference between Windows and macOS

The podcast 20,000 Hertz had a whole podcast about the Windows start up sound. I think it’s a perfect explanation about what is wrong with Windows.

The episode points out the Mac had a startup sound, but it didn’t really change that much. However, each version of Windows had its own startup sound and design philosophy behind it. Lots of meetings and cash was thrown into this.

The sound might be sonically beautiful but when you’re at work starting your computer, a five second sound extravaganza from each system every single morning isn’t what you want. Plus the continuously changing sound with each release means there is no one Windows startup sound.

Meanwhile the Mac’s startup sound is short and simple and iconic. In the movie Wall-E, it wasn’t the Windows startup sound they used. It was the Mac’s and everyone instantly recognized it.

You can see this with MacOS vs. Windows designwise too. The candy colored Aqua theme of the original OS X 10.0 was followed by the candy colored Windows XP. For the new MacOS, it made sense. This was a completely new operating system and it has to stand out against the gray and aging System 7/8/9. It had to wow. Windows XP’s version was just jarring. Modern Window was five years old by then. It didn’t need for people to notice.

Meanwhile, each and every release of MacOS toned down the original aqua theme but by bit and all parts of the system got the same theme update. At the same time, parts of Windows XP were never updated. For seven years the jarring color scheme haunted XP and yet the calculator, the control panel, and many other parts still carried over the Windows 95 look until Windows 10.

Except for the Corinthian Leather age of iOS, Apple interfaces focus on functional. The soundscape is sparse and brief, but well understood by the user. Sosume as an error sound has been around for over a decade. Mac users well understand it means an error. The interface always fairly well unified and it evolves slowly and carefully. Windows on the other hand makes massive changes as if it’s the new and improved 1957 Studebaker at an auto show.

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Wall-E, was a devoted, trusty, and hard working SE 30 with a heart of gold. Although the film did feature the startup sound, our beloved hero did not have whirring fan noise constantly in the background. And his beautiful, sexy, and devoted co-star, Eve, was a sleek and sexy iPod.

Steve Jobs, who owned Pixar at the time, would never have considered using anything Windows related.

Windows XP was really a whole new system. Probably the first time users who wanted to use their machines for something other than work were likely to switch to the NT line. Windows has always tended to be a bit ugly, although the look has improved over the years.

I did feel the change from Snow Leopard to Lion was quite a radical shift.

I have no idea what the current Windows start-up sound is because all the Windows machines I use are dead quiet when they start. And they’ve all been like that by default. I couldn’t say what the sound was for Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8 either because likewise they never made any start-up noises.

I think Sosume has gone now. Unfortunately.

And the cute little Dogcow.

The startup sound difference is actually on a pretty fundamental level. At least back in the olden days, the Mac startup sound was a hardware thing–the chord was generated after the initial self-test at startup was successful but before things really started loading. (And if the self-test failed, you got either a sequence of tones or a car crash sound, depending on the machine.)

In contrast, the “Windows startup sound” was always entirely a software thing–Windows played the sound when it wanted to announce that it was ready, or that you had logged in.


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Apple does periodically change the system sounds. Fortunately, they’re just ordinary sound files.

So after an upgrade where they changed, you can go copy them from a backup’s /System/Library/Sounds to /Library/Sounds in order to put them back. (But I did notice that on modern macOS releases, /System/LibrarySounds is part of the System volume, so it won’t get backed up. So this means I should explicitly back them up before a system upgrade.)

Note, however, that recent releases have changed the sounds without renaming the files. For instance, Big Sur’s “Sonumi” sound is /System/Library/Sounds/Sosumi.aiff. Which is completely different from my /Library/Sounds/Sosumi.aiff, which is the “Sosumi” sound and shows up with that name in the system control panel.

I assume they did this so apps that hard-coded the name of an audio file wouldn’t break (but would play the new system sound), but it is really annoying for people like me. I’ll have to remember to rename these files when I copy them to /Library/Sounds in the future (when Apple changes them again, as they often do).

Yes, you can reinstall it, that is true.
Maybe the sound quality has been improved over the years, but I think Sosumi and the other system sounds go all the way back to the original Macintosh. There is a story that Apple wasn’t allowed to do anything musical (as a consequence of the lawsuit by the Beatles’ Apple Corps) upon which the creator of the sound said ‘So sue me!’, hence the name.
But all the original system sounds have been replaced (or hidden, rather) in the latest MacOS. Which is a pity as far as I am concerned.

I dunno, the Brian Emo Windows 95 startup chime was pretty darn comfy.

Yeah, the last time I used Windows, it was a hot mess. It has a shiny veneer but dig down and it’s Windows 7/8. Dig down a little deeper and you find panels that haven’t been updated since 1995. macOS had a problem for a while of giving some apps a fresh new look while others looked a couple of versions behind, but you’re not going to uncover a preference pane that hasn’t been updated since the Clinton administration.